Really see them.
The woman wearing a ball cap to cover her lack of hair from chemo; not one, but two women with oxygen tanks in tow… one of them carried a small baby on the other hip.
I was struck by the brokenness before me. The pain concealed behind a thin veil of distraction - looking for the perfect paint brush; choosing dog stickers for the scrapbook.
One of the tank-toting women had clearly smoked for decades but I felt no condemnation for her because it was standing in line at Hobby Lobby that I realized with a jolt of clarity - it is our own brokenness that crushes us further. The crowded counter gave me time for conjecture: perhaps she first courted nicotine when she was only 15 seeking from friends the acceptance she had never felt elsewhere; maybe it was in college when she was stressed from working two jobs and making the grades; possibly out of the pain of abuse from a man who had promised to love her? Maybe she just straight up wanted to try it, but once she did, the allusion of comfort took deep root and nothing punishes misery quite like addiction.
The craving became a cruel master as the young woman's voice became gasping gravel. Her beautiful face was etched deep with the effort to soothe jangled nerves, and the lungs hardened requiring her to carry her own air. This added burden is her only prize for all the previous grief – she is literally dying from all her broken attempts to stop the bleeding.
At clinic we see painful brokenness all the time but Lord, the mess we saw the other day! Every single kiddo was dramatically ill and it was horrifying; I've never seen anything like it. Jesus, please have mercy! All those little lambs, badly busted up but still looking at me and cracking a smile as I grinned too and tried not to weep . . . My heart was so unstable already, I almost couldn’t bear it. For some things there's just no help to be had from a pill you can swallow . . .
I even dreamed one night about brokenness. Things kept breaking! My wedding ring broke – just randomly in the middle of the air this precious golden symbol fell apart and dropped off of my hand. It landed in a huge trash pile, spronged all wrong - and why was I standing knee deep in trash? Feeling my ring pop off, I reached, scrambling to retrieve it, going up to the elbows in filth. That's not how it's supposed to be! Other things were breaking too – cars, bones, everything was breaking. I felt overwhelmed with despair by the relentless and pervasive sense of significant damage.
So what is there to do when the heart hunches heavy under weight I can’t see or understand, and the tears flow making soggy everything that seemed right and beautiful before so much brokenness? Days when I can’t think straight or feel straight so Lord knows I can’t talk straight because it’s everything inside that’s crooked and sometimes I don’t know what to do with any of it.
Lord, it’s times like these that I can only fall on your grace. I cannot “move forward” if I can’t move at all, yet somehow – if only I will remember to do so – I can fall forward to you; flooding you wet with my tears; and there’s comfort in having Someone there to soak them up.
You know every last crooked place inside of me, yet you long to embrace me even when I walk determined down crooked paths; speak crooked words; see everything through crooked lenses. It is perhaps I who am most broken.
Thank you, Lord that it is in my weakness, that your power is made perfect. Your grace is sufficient. By definition:
Your grace is enough.
Thank you, Lord, that you came to make all the crooked roads straight and the rough ways smooth. (Luke 3:5) Thank you that you are here to bind up the wounds deep in our souls where we are most in need of mending. (Psalm 147:3) Thank you that you came to be our Perfect Lamb; to give your body to be broken so you could be "close to the brokenhearted and to save those who are crushed in spirit." (Psalm 34:18) Thank you for the loving compassion you pour out to the weak, wounded, and weary, for all of us are all of these.
There is a lot that modern medicine can fix, but so much more that it can't. Thank you, Jesus that it is when we are worst shattered that you can best re-shape us. And if we continue to fall toward you, the result of all this confounded brokenness will be that we are more like you in the end. Thank you that those who look to you are radiant, and our faces are never covered with shame. (Psalm 34:5)
May I be struck by the beauty of that . . .